“A Hidden Variable behind Entanglement,” Michelle Frank's article on physicist Chien-Shiung Wu's early work on entanglement, was such an amazing story and so beautifully written. Wu's contribution to science despite the challenges she faced for recognition and career progression is so inspirational. The photograph of her sitting in the front row at a particle physics conference really got me. Powerful stuff.
JACQUI GILMOUR via e-mail
Thank you for Frank's revealing article on our society's gender bias against Wu. The article states that she boarded a ship for California in 1936 and that “at the University of California, Berkeley, Wu became a star student.” But an accompanying photograph of her immigration file shows that her visa stated she would “pursue a course in Physics at the University of Michigan.” Is this early evidence of entanglement at a distance? As the proud parent of a Michigan grad, I would also ask if it is a demonstration of parity breaking.
JOHN D. FOOTE via e-mail
FRANK REPLIES: Thank you so much for the kind words! Before leaving China, Wu had been accepted to the University of Michigan, and this is why her immigration paperwork included the details Foote noticed. When Wu arrived in California, however, she decided to transfer to U.C. Berkeley. My editor, Jen Schwartz, and I decided not to include that change of plans in this article simply for space reasons and to keep the narrative moving. There is a layered story about why Wu changed her mind, though. It involves allegations of gender discrimination at the University of Michigan's student union and an informal campus tour of U.C. Berkeley's world-class physics department. That tour was led by Luke Chia-Liu Yuan, the man whom Wu would later marry. Whether Yuan himself or the prospect of access to a cyclotron had a greater influence on Wu's transfer decision remains open to debate!
I am deeply disturbed by “Chatbots Talking,” Giacomo Miceli's article on how he created an artificial-intelligence-generated conversation between two real people who did not actually have that discussion. “I built this conversation as a warning,” he writes, and so it is. The easy, quick, inexpensive and very available method of voice cloning using AI will have enormous impact on all societies around the world. Because synthetic voices and the conversations they engage in can be so convincingly real and natural, this technology's opportunity for abuse is unimaginable.
The thing that bothers me most is that voice and video manipulation will bring about a crisis in trust, as the author mentions. How will we trust that the “recording” of a politician, a judge, a law-enforcement officer, a witness in a trial, a doctor or anyone in a position of power is genuine? We are totally unprepared to meet this challenge.
ROBERT WALTY Stephens City, Va.
YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIND
In “Kindness Goes Farther Than You Think” [Mind Matters], Amit Kumar describes how small acts of kindness can have a large impact on recipients' moods. When I read the article, I was reminded of special moments in my life: Last winter in a tiny Mexican fishing village, I gave a bilingual edition of Curious George to a seven- or eight-year-old boy. Later he was seen clutching his treasured book to his chest. When I gave a Spanish version of “The Little Mermaid” to a young girl, she wouldn't stop hugging me. What joy for both of us! Next winter I will spread even more joy with classic picture books for the children.
MERILYN GROSSHANS Las Vegas, Nev.
“Why People Hate Open Offices,” by George Musser, makes a number of interesting points about the health and productivity problems created by such designs. It fails, however, to mention the worst plan of all: a hybrid in which openness at the center of the floor is encircled by traditional window offices for management, with senior management in the highly desirable corner offices. The message couldn't be clearer: there's a strict hierarchy here, and you peons in the middle are at the absolute bottom.
JOHN SECHRIST Pittsburgh, Pa.
RULES OF RESPECT
In “Beyond the Golden Rule” [The Science of Health, February], Claudia Wallis argues that in life-or-death cases, physicians should not follow the Golden Rule and decide on patient care according to what they would want if they had the patient's condition. Instead they should follow the “platinum rule”: the patient's autonomy (self-rule) should be respected, and the physician should make decisions in line with the patient's own wishes.
I agree that the patient's own wishes must be respected. But the author is misled in her application of the Golden Rule when she suggests that it does not apply in cases of quality-of-life decisions. An alternative interpretation would apply the Golden Rule as follows: “Respect the patient's autonomy as you would want your own autonomy to be respected in the same circumstances.”
DON E. SCHEID
Emeritus professor of philosophy, Winona State University, Minnesota
Thank you for publishing Wallis's article about the Golden Rule and the platinum rule. The latter should have a place in every doctor's education.
My husband, not knowing the platinum rule even existed, insisted on his doctors listening to him. We had a marvelous palliative care doctor who did listen and gave him the satisfaction of a peaceful end. Too often doctors apply their rules. They need to learn how to step back and let the patient and patient's family tell them what is wanted without bias.
NAN SOPIN via e-mail
SEMANTICS OF FUEL
As someone who works in thought leadership across the public sector, I often point out how language around “climate disruption” conveys the wrong meaning, eliciting ineffective ways of addressing the problem. Semantics are very important, as Susan Joy Hassol tells us in “Changing the Language of Climate Change” [February].
I would only add “fossil fuels” to Hassol's list of terms that could be replaced with a better description. We can use “dirty fuels” instead. Both my five- and seven-year-olds have a fascination for fossils. “Fossil” evokes something cool, discovery, science—largely a positive meaning. I'm afraid that by repeating the term “fossil fuels,” we are unintentionally passing the positive meaning to the whole dirty fuel industry.
LUIS SENA ESTEVES Melbourne, Australia
I wish to express my appreciation for Piers Vitebsky's report on the Sora spiritual tradition of “Dialogues with the Dead” [January]. Vitebsky has managed to express in a beautiful way the human drama of losing these spiritually valuable customs. He has also put this into the perspective of the problems of present society.
LUIGI CAVALERI Institute of Marine Sciences, Italy
“Blame Game,” by Lois Parshley [June], should have said that Friederike Otto is now a senior lecturer in climate science at Imperial College London, not a professor of global climate science at the University of Oxford.